One of the frustrations for students sitting exams is the time from when they start queueing to the time that exam actually starts. The student wants to get in the zone, yet there are hold ups in the room: the student can’t find their seat, other students have got their phones with them still, students need to put bags at the back of the hall, students have left the wrappers on their water bottles, etc. Whilst the list is not endless, it is time consuming, so we have tried to be much more regulated this year, including giving the lower school students the opportunities to experience the exam hall before they sit their GCSEs.

One aspect of this is to pass a “wand” over the students to check for phones as they enter, and the students have responded superbly by recognising the need to leave their phones elsewhere before the approach the entrance. However, on the first morning the detector kept going off as Mrs Essery and I were scanning the students. My initial reaction was that it was my own watch setting it off, but having removed my watch I realised it was still happening; perhaps the students weren’t holding their arms up high enough to keep their keys out of range. So after a little bit of “hands up arresting”, we realised that wasn’t the problem. By this stage everyone was in for the first exam, so puzzled we walked away, content that there were no phones in the exam hall.

In the afternoon, we started a little earlier worrying that the whole method wouldn’t actually speed up the exams, and sure enough still the wands’ buzzers were set off. By this stage, we had recognised that students taking medication in might trigger the alerts (due to the metal backing of the container), but this didn’t eliminate it. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, throw the wands away, or just go back to the original plan, and then it dawned on us what was happening. A student approaching the exam hall threw a piece of chewing gum away in the metal wrapper it had be sold in. So after a quick couple of checks, we quickly realised that the small pieces of the wrappers that were left at the bottom of blazer top pockets were indeed the cause of the buzzers going off. At least we know the sensors worked, and the start of the exams had been considerably quicker as a consequence of our actions, although it shows how easy it is in planning to miss the micro detail.

Anyway, alongside the amusing anecdote, the students have started exams superbly and next week we really start to move in to the whole cohort exams with English Literature on Monday: Good Luck all, and remember hard work pays off.

Finally, I would just like to draw attention to the students that visited the University of Oxford for their Brilliant Club presentations on Tuesday; there will be more in the newsletter next week, but as a first foray into this experience at Marshalls Park, the students have performed superbly and been a credit to the school.

Have a good, and hopefully dry, weekend.

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